Economic indices are positive and the figures released by the Hellenic Statistical Authority are encouraging, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday in a meeting with the leadership of the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA).
“If we continue to have the same positive rates as we had in the first two quarters and especially the third…we can reach growth rates in 2017 that approach 2 pct, which the Greek economy has not seen in more than a decade,” Tsipras said.
“What is needed,” he said, “is to maintain fiscal balance, provide liquidity tools and increase demand to help the Greek economy grow.” Banks can play a very useful role in this effort, the prime minister added, while noting that trust in Greek banks must be rebuilt, both among investors and among depositors.
In addition to the prime minister, the meeting was attended by government vice-president Yiannis Dragasakis, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Economy Minister Dimitri Papadimitriou.
According to an HBA press release regarding the meeting, in addition to noting a clear improvement in the Greek economy, bankers had underlined the need to continue reforms, open markets and implement agreements with the creditors, including efforts to create a business-friendly environment in Greece and further boost the credibility of fiscal policy and market confidence.
The talks also focused on conditions in the banking sector and the improvements made there, with banks returning to profit after almost a decade of losses, a gradual recovery of deposits and a slow but steady reduction of bad loans. On the flip side, banks noted slow credit expansion due to low demand by households, the continuing restrictions imposed by capital controls, and challenge still posed by the reduction of NPLs.
An announcement from the premier’s press office that Greece has turned a page, as proved by ELSTAT’s second quarter provisional figures, which showed a strong recovery even before the conclusion of the second programme review.
While main opposition New Democracy was predicting imminent doom, the Greek economy was growing by 0.5 pct compared to the first quarter of 2017 and by 0.8 pct compared to the second quarter of 2016, it added.
This trend was further reinforced after the conclusion of the second programme review, Greece’s successful return to the markets and the upgrades of the Greek economy by the international rating agencies. We continue to strive for equitable growth with protection of the labour market and for building a new production model, the announcement concluded.
The prime minister next received the leadership of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE), noting that good macroeconomic indices must also be reflected by reality.
“The main issue is to have a convergence between good macroeconomic indices and growth rates and the real situation, as experienced by SMEs, merchants and craftspeople, because sometimes we can get carried away,” he said.
GSEVEE President Giorgos Kavvathas referred to a survey carried out in July 2017, which showed a real improvement in indices by about 10 pct, though this was not enough.
After the meeting, Kavvathas said that he had raised the key problems for GSEVEE members, including overtaxation, social insurance issues, financing and the need for a development bank focused on SMEs and micro-businesses, the need for “unseizable” business bank accounts and the outstanding debts of some 300,000 entrepreneurs.
In an earlier meeting with the leadership of the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE), Tsipras noted that Greece needs a new production model, a new development model and has to rebuild small and medium-sized enterprise on a healthier foundation.
According to the president of ESEE Vassilis Korkidkis, the prime minister told them that there is still hope and he would continue to work with the government’s economic staff in order to persuade Greece’s creditors to agree to “unseizable” business bank accounts.
More specifically, Korkidis said that they discussed the three main priorities: a) a special business account that makes provision for certain amounts that cannot be seized, enabling businessmen can pay their obligations to the State, social security funds and the payroll of the employees; b) the 120-installment repayment schemes through the out-of-court settlement process c) the side effects of over-taxation during the last eight years of memoranda.